Executive director of Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties, 2022 Nobel Peace Prize recipient, she will also participate in the Q&A after the film. We are thrilled to have her.
The United Nations Development Programme posted this about her earlier this spring:
“Appalled by the brutal dispersal by riot police at a peaceful student camp in Kyiv in late 2013, Romantsova realized she wanted more than just to attend protest rallies. As a volunteer, she joined the Center for Civil Liberties, where she first learned about human rights. Later, she became its executive director - and a world-renowned human rights advocate. From call-center to Nobel Peace Prize: Meet human rights activist Oleksandra Romantsova | United Nations Development Programme (undp.org)
The Center for Civil Liberties is currently working on documenting war crimes in Ukraine. They are the first Ukrainian organization or person to be bestowed this prestigious award; and Sasha personally has been to Bucha on behalf of CCL and their war crime documentation activities.
Here’s the tentative schedule for the afternoon program:
Ukrainian cuisine will be available for purchase. This screening will also feature newly installed Ukrainian captions.
This is a donation driven event. Admission is free though donations are encouraged. Space is limited so please register and donate by clicking here.
Big Opening Weekend in New England with Additional October Dates in Pennsylvania and South Florida
I am SO looking forward to kicking off Back to Bucha’s fall screening tour in Boston and New Hampshire with two fantastic screenings next weekend.
Claremont, NH – Saturday, September 30th at 4:00 PM EDT
The tour begins next Saturday at the beautiful Claremont Opera House on a very big screen! We will be premiering the new 30-minute version of the film at the “Stand With Ukraine” event put together by the Sugar River Rotary. I’m especially pleased that the film’s soundtrack composer Valeriia Vovk will also be performing. As the presidential primary season really heats up it is an opportunity to help keep Ukraine in the minds of New Hampshire residents. Especially since the new shorter version of the film really gets to the essence of the film – moms and kids coming back home. And to top it off, this will be the film’s New Hampshire premiere!
For more click here.
Boston, MA – Sunday, October 1st at 12:30 PM EDT
Next is our long-awaited screening at the St. Andrew Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Jamaica Plain which is the first Orthodox Church to screen the film. I am also honored that Sasha Romantsova, Executive Director of the Center for Civil Liberties in Ukraine, winner of the 2022 Nobel Prize, will join me for the Q&A after the film. Additionally, Liubimyr Janov, the head of Bucha’s Youth Council and featured in the film, will be joining us live from Ukraine via Zoom. We are also once again very fortunate that the film’s soundtrack composer Valeriia Vovk will also be performing. 50% of the net proceeds from the film will go to Ya Buchanec, a Bucha based non-profit.
For more click here.
Additional October dates include:
Lake Worth Beach, FL – Wednesday, October 18th at 11AM EDT - St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church
Lancaster, PA – Tuesday, October 24th at 7:00 PM EDT - Grandview Church
We will provide additional details as we get closer to these events.
Come out and see us!
Dear Mr. Carlson,
I would like to challenge you to a debate regarding the state of Christianity in Ukraine today. Why? As this issue is central to the relationship we have with Ukraine, and several misconceptions that you proffer on the subject are gaining traction, a debate seems to offer an appropriate way to set the record straight.
You see, I’ve shot two documentaries in Ukraine since March 2022, largely with Ukrainian Christians. As you are raising questions about religious liberty in Ukraine – even going so far as to say they are being persecuted by their government – you are diminishing support for a key ally that is simply fighting for their liberties and independence, just like 18th century American patriots.
I can assure you that freedom of religion is alive and well in Ukraine as anyone can see in my new documentary “Back to Bucha”. The film lets Ukrainian Christians speak for themselves. That is why I have but one condition for my request. The film must first be screened for the debate audience.
You pick the venue, time, and format.
I’ll meet you anytime, anywhere. If I may be so bold though, let me offer a few suggestions:
How about Ukraine? Kyiv, Lviv, and Bucha are where I’ve spent most of my time there though I am planning to go beyond Bucha to shoot a third documentary. I’m sure they would welcome you with open arms. I know you’ve recently visited Hungary but don’t think you’ve been to Ukraine recently. You’ll love it!
You might also consider Moscow given how popular I’m thinking you must be there. You would need to assure me I wouldn’t be arrested though. Given that one apparently can’t even say what’s happening in Ukraine is a war I’m afraid my two films alone might get me imprisoned before uttering a word.
An equally friendly environment for us to try might be any of the mega-churches throughout the South and Texas that I recently toured. The Alamo Church would also present a rather dramatic venue given the similar sentiments I’m sure the old Texicans and Ukrainians share. The First Baptist Church of Farmersville outside Dallas would also be great and is the home church of the President of the Southern Baptist Convention. That’s a more rural setting.
Perhaps New Haven, given the deep New England roots we both share. We could reach out to Yale and see if they might want to host the debate under the auspices of the Buckley Institute. As I am a former seminarian at the Berkeley Divinity School, the Episcopal Seminary at Yale (haven’t graduated), we could even ask them though I’m not sure of their enthusiasm given the unfavorable views you apparently hold against your cradle church. I’m also thinking you might draw some rather large protests, so we had better have a Plan B. How about your home church in California?
Well, wherever you choose we could broadcast it on X too if you like.
Why am I doing this?
Personally, I have nothing to lose as just being on the same platform with you would instantly increase my standing, which I would use to promote my new film and Ukrainian causes I’ve encountered along the way. It would also be a celebration of the freedoms we take for granted and Ukrainians are literally dying for. But in the end, I just want folks to watch the film and help trim the tide of disinformation about Christianity in Ukraine. For you the reasons would be very different, but I figure a suitable level of publicity might help bring you to the table. Good fodder for TuckerCarlson.com at least.
I am perhaps uniquely qualified to bring an American Christian’s perspective to this issue given the films, and posts I’ve authored for TheoEco’s mailing list. These include pieces about America’s lessons for Ukraine from its own revolution. For example, a new essay about the Church of England in Revolutionary America - and possible lessons for Ukraine - is in the works. As an aside I recently traced my roots to a 1700’s loyalist Church of England pastor in Dedham, MA. Like many Anglican clergy at the time, he was arrested and much worse. Echoes indeed heard in the arrests of Russian affiliated Orthodox priests in Ukraine, though many American patriots were far less understanding, particularly in New England.
And here I always imagined myself a Minuteman. How about you? Oh well…
I didn’t start off to Ukraine in March 2022 to meet Christians. I went to document nuclear power plants and the Russian caused fire at the Zaporizhzhia Power Plant. (You can watch my first Ukrainian film Trek to Bucha for more.) By the way, I’ve produced six documentaries on subjects as diverse as flooding in South Florida to earthquake recovery in Nepal. I’m also producing a film on the 500+ year history of guns in South Florida. I am Miami based and a member of the National Muzzleloaders Rifle Association. I will also turn 63 next month.
Of course, I understand you are unlikely to debate me as I am not famous. Besides no one likes to be shown to be wrong.
That being said, you are a professional debater of sorts and will likely overwhelm my debate skills. But at least a few more folks will see the film and make up their own minds.
So, what do you say? Willing to take a quixotic flyer and debate me? I hope so.
Today we take note of what this war is all about. Liberty. As we just celebrated July 4th.
By Steve Richards
Today is Ukraine’s 32nd Independence Day, when Ukraine celebrates its independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell apart. It has been an independent republic ever since.
Many Americans mistakenly think Ukraine is part of Russia, mostly because our view of history only goes back so far. They confuse the Soviet years with the history of Ukraine which goes back well over a thousand years – long before Russia was even a dot on a map.
The Soviet years were especially tragic for Ukraine and drove its yearning to be free of it, like all the former Soviet dominated countries of Europe, like Poland. The war and blood so usually required of revolutions was delayed one might say. But it is on now and is a fight in which America vitally supports Ukraine with its NATO allies.
In our two films about Ukraine since the full-scale invasion in February 2022, people can see the kinds of people we are supporting. They are people just like us and a tremendous ally on the front lines of our ongoing struggle with Russia. In particular, Back to Bucha features the women and Christians that are the backbone of Ukraine.
Below is a brief PowerPoint deck for those interested in learning more and being inspired by the Ukrainian moms, children, pastors, and young men we see in the film.
To download the deck click here.
New Trailer Highlights Ukraine’s Moms, Kids, and Spirit
After many months, we have trimmed the preliminary trailer down to a brisk 99 seconds, while holding on to many highlights — especially the moms and kids that returned home just as soon as they could, to come home to their men who never left at all.
To watch the trailer click here: https://vimeo.com/806764228
We see a rebuilt Jul’s coffee shop in Bucha back serving neighbors. Forget the blown-out windows and pile of glass we saw a year before — they wanted to get back to work and they are!
In Back to Bucha and its trailer, we see much more about the Spirit of Ukraine’s people, than the damage to its buildings and churches. And making it all work is the moving composition of talented Ukrainian pianist and composer Valeriia Vovk — so ubiquitous in the film and trailer.
And TVBoy, the Italian street artist who had just painted the picture of a brave girl with a stop sign just around the corner of Jul’s. We can’t help featuring it in the trailer and as its cover photo.
As you'll see, the film and trailer are upbeat, inspirational, and will leave you with a smile.
We hope you like it. Take a look!
Before the Alamo was a symbol of liberty it was a church.
By Steve Richards
While in San Antonio on my tour of Texas churches to screen Back to Bucha, I stopped into the Alamo. I had been before but I saw it in a whole new light this time.
This time it was a church. Perhaps it had something to do with it being #17 on my tour of 23 churches beginning two weeks and 2,500+ miles earlier. Back to Bucha – Scouting Tour of the South and Texas (theoeco.org)
The mission, originally named Mission San Antonio de Valero in 1755 would later become the Alamo and was a place of worship until 1793. Alamo Church | The Alamo. Countless prayers were presumably offered over the years as well as services offered even during the time it was a fort. Surely there were many impassioned and faithful prayers offered there as the Mexican troops moved in. And so many offered since by millions of visitors to this sacred place.
Texians (what Anglo-Mexicans in Texas were called) were fighting for the same things Ukrainians fight for today. A fight against tyranny by courageous individuals who want nothing but liberty. These are the same human sentiments that Boston slave and first best-selling African American writer, Phyllis Wheatly, perhaps put it best:
In every human Breast, God has implanted a Principle, which we call Love of Freedom; it is impatient of Oppression, and pants for Deliverance. - Phillis Wheatley - 1774
Ukraine and its people are the greatest example of our time of this universal principal and why so many Americans identify with Ukrainians and support them.
Delving into the history of Texas leading up to the 1836 Battle of the Alamo it became especially clear to me also that Ukrainians are following a path that the Texians would have recognized – as do most Americans. Like America’s 13 original states they were committed to gain independence from a far larger force that had become destructive of their rights. Santa Ana clamped down on uprisings throughout Mexico with Texas having been granted a certain amount of autonomy in the Mexican Constitution of 1824. Santa Anna made himself an autocrat and tried to reassert control. Thomas Jefferson captured the Enlightenment principles of his day in the United States Declaration of Independence:
"…That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
This is what Ukraine is doing today. As did the Texians and Americans before. The point being that a government that doesn’t provide liberty does not deserve to govern, and citizens have the right to set up a new one. Add the name Zelensky to the name of brave leaders who, through circumstances and the right stuff, fight for his citizens’ liberty.
The Spirit was and is in all these places.
Texas is also roughly the same size as Ukraine. Another less commonly known factoid: neither have nuclear weapons on their soil. At least since Ukraine peacefully gave up theirs almost thirty years ago.
Plus, the countless movies and stories don’t do either place justice. Leaders like Austin, Bowie, and Crocket – all who died at the Alamo - fire the pangs of patriotism in America – as well as Ukrainians and free loving folks across the world, not just Texans. The martyrs inspire worldwide as evidenced by English musician Phil Collins’ Alamo collection now on display at the museum there.
Another similarity, Texas was a Republic before it joined the USA. Ukraine became a Republic and is still free and independent as it continues its journey to becoming a more fully unified member in Europe. It doesn’t matter that some previous ruler or government laid claim before. So long as their people are willing to die as those at the Alamo did. Same as those at Bunker Hill and throughout Ukraine right now. The fight is always for the same thing. It doesn’t matter that Mexico, the English, or the Russians said the place was theirs. No matter the history – or the legends. All that matters is that the governed had a right to a new government that provided liberty. And in every case the cost was blood and victory.
Similarly, the imperfections of the courageous does not take away from the driving principal. America’s founding fathers did not face the issue of slavery in 1776 and the USA continues to pay heavy prices to this day. Similarly, the Texians view of liberty did not include freeing their slaves. Ukraine has deep issues that aren’t being whitewashed away. We and future generations will just have to keep fighting for even more perfect unions, I suppose.
Lastly, atrocities are also part of the fight for Texas and Ukraine Independence. Russian atrocities in Bucha are still being documented. Santa Anna ordered all survivors killed – and each man was. Except for Joe, a slave, so as to live and tell the story.
But that’s not the end of the church in this story. Intriguingly the tour guides seem not to think of its original purpose. I even asked if there were religious services ever held there. Apparently not. But it would be awesome, especially given its sacredness and the mercy shown there in the face of atrocities.
You see, in addition to Joe many women and children were also spared by the Mexican soldiers. They had taken refuge in the church, the last of the fort complex to be taken. So, in the end, the church was fittingly the site of recorded mercy that day.
‘Remember the Alamo!’ is what the Texians yelled as they defeated Santa Anna just weeks later. Glory to the Heroes! is what they say in Ukraine today.
Three weeks, 3,000+ miles, and 23 stops across the South and Texas.By Steve Richards
I am just back from the Back to Bucha scouting/promotional tour looking for venues for our fall screening tour. I began in Atlanta, went north to Charlotte, then west to Little Rock - stopping at churches on the TheoEco email list that care about the modern-day Ukrainian Christendom seen in the film. The Texas leg took me to Dallas, San Antonio, Austin, Houston and many points in between.
Highlights included a stop at Dollywood at the foot of the Smoky Mountains where I was amazed to find an operating one-room country church in the theme park! While that’s hard to beat I also got to visit the First Baptist Church in Farmersville, TX - a rural and thriving congregation led by Rev. Bart Barber whom I had seen on 60 minutes recently. You see, Rev. Barber also happens to be President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s 42,000 churches and 16 million members. But as awesome as these two encounters were, they can’t beat my visit to The Alamo which struck me so much more as the 18th century church it was rather than the fort it became. Its heroes’ sacrifices for liberty echoing that of Ukraine’s in ways I hadn’t felt during previous visits to this sanctuary.
Add to these the screening in Austin and launching fireworks with my sister’s family at their home outside Ft. Worth and it was a great trip! (For the complete list of stops look below)
Here’s a list of the stops made on the South and Texas tour just finished.
Image: Serhii Mykhalchuk / Global Images Ukraine / Getty Images
This article from Christianity Today was published in February of this year. The number of religious buildings destroyed now exceeds 500 - more than one for each day of the 500-day invasion by Russian forces.
And more than 500 religious sites hit including many
Report: 500 Ukrainian Churches and Religious Sites Damaged by Russian Military
By Meagan Saliashvili in Christianity Today
One out of three destroyed or looted buildings tallied by Institute for Religious Freedom belong to evangelicals, accused of being “American spies.”
“The independent research institute presented its latest report this week during the third international religious freedom summit in Washington.
The IRF aims to catalog evidence of Russian war crimes against Ukrainian religious communities. The destruction of religious sites is often intentional and happening in tandem with attacks on civilian believers and pastors, said executive director Maksym Vasin.
Russian soldiers have repeatedly threatened to destroy evangelical Christians in Ukraine, calling them “American spies,” “sectarians,” and “enemies of the Russian Orthodox people,” saidValentyn Siniy, rector of the Kherson-based Tavriski Christian Institute—one of scores of damaged sites belonging to evangelical groups.
Russian forces seized the seminary’s building as a headquarters, looted it, and then left it destroyed, he said.
“One Russian officer told an employee of our institute that ‘evangelical believers like you should be completely destroyed … a simple shooting will be too easy for you. You need to be buried alive,’” said Siniy, according to the IRF report. In a translated video played during the panel, he elaborated, “During a telephone conversation, one of our employees was told, ‘We will bury [Baptist] sectarians like you.’”
The IRF report found that “the scale of destruction of evangelical church prayer houses is immense.” It tallied at least 170 damaged evangelical sites—including 75 Pentecostal churches, 49 Baptist churches, 24 Seventh-day Adventist churches, and 22 “other” evangelical churches—comprising a full third of the total, even though evangelicals comprise less than 5 percent of Ukraine’s population.”
For the full article go to: https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2023/february/ukrainian-churches-damaged-russia-war-religious-freedom-irf.html
Atlanta to Little Rock, Amarillo to Houston - Now Through Mid-July
By Steve Richards
I am taking the Back to Bucha show on the road to scout out venues for our fall screening tour on a 2,500+ mile ride and I can’t wait. I have lots of places on the TheoEco email list to stop and see.
I don’t care how hot it is in Texas!
I begin in Atlanta tomorrow June 28th and plan to finish July 18th in Houston with a bunch of stops along the way.
I’m looking forward to spreading the Spirit of Ukraine throughout the area of the country that can appreciate it like no other: The Bible Belt.
Please reach out to me if I’m coming your way. I’ll make every effort to come by and make your acquaintance.
The Ukrainian Christians in Back to Bucha Are Just Like Those in the USA.
By Steve Richards
As we were editing Back to Bucha (shot in Ukraine at the beginning of 2023) it became clear that the original 76-minute version was more of a Christian film than I thought. The new 56-minute cut is better suited to secular audiences with shorter interviews of clergy and others.
My natural perspective is to look at things from a theological point of view, especially since my time at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale almost ten years ago. I have always looked at the war in Ukraine as a battle joined in a quasi-metaphysical, theological realm. Especially when Putin and religious leaders in Russia talk about the patently absurd purpose of the war was to “de-satanize” Ukraine. Satanism, De-Satanization, and Exorcism in Contemporary Russian Rhetoric: Historical Reflections - Cornell University Press.
Absurd because all I meet in Ukraine are Christians with roots dating back to the 10th century. Even St. Andrew was reportedly a bringer of the Gospels in the first century and is the patron saint of Ukraine (and Russia). Of course, they say the same thing about the west and the USA being run by satanists, so I guess we’re all in cahoots with the devil; as many in the USA might agree, but that’s another story. Suffice it to say audiences of Back to Bucha will see folks just like them along the Christian spectrum we see in America: from agnostics raised by Christian moms and grandmothers to those who attend church once or twice a year, to regular church goers. We also get the perspectives of clergy from Presbyterians to Catholics, to Orthodox, to Charismatic. Most of whom are speaking English. I asked a simple question of all whom I interviewed: “Where is the Spirit in all this?”
So, with all these theological threads in the film I was glad that the Christian aspect of the Ukrainian Spirit made it through as I began screening the film for religious leaders and audiences in my orbit. Here’s one review we received from a Florida based Episcopal/Anglican priest:
As a sequel to Richards’ first documentary journey to Bucha—a town representative of Ukrainian suffering as well as resistance under Russian siege—Back to Bucha is a profound meditation on the experience of loss and return, and the significance of place for human meaning and identity. At once impressionist and thematic, Richards weaves together interviews and personal testimonies to form a tapestry not just of human resilience, but perhaps even more of the greater Spirit that inspires the love of country and the love that binds together fellow citizens. It is in this Spirit that stories of the past, as well as hopes for the future, are carried with such graciousness. Absent is the sense of vengefulness, less still a countering sense of ethnic privilege or preeminence. Back to Bucha reveals a humble people, wanting to preserve and, by current necessity, restore a place in which to live, love and worship, according to the gifts of a deeply rich cultural and religious heritage. It is a study in how genuine faith turns the love of nation into simply and gracefully the love of home.”
Not sure about “impressionistic and thematic” but it was clear how much Fr. Dave enjoyed and learned from the film about those he saw in it.
My goal? To give American Christians a chance to see just how much we have in common with our new friends, allies, and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. People just like us. It’s a witnessing of sorts by me and those in the film of how the Spirit plays such a crucial role in the conflict and in Ukrainian resilience. Something rarely talked about in the media.
In the end, American audiences don’t see victims in Back to Bucha. Just those trying to raise their children in their own homes in their own country – and thanking God to be alive. They see people like us fighting for their freedom – and thanking God, America, and all who are in this fight with them.